If not now, when?
The first ever Gratitude Week to End Homelessness closed Friday, October 16, 2009 with a break in the rain and a moving speech by Mayor Gregor Robertson on the grounds of the Plaza at the Vancouver Art Gallery. But even though the week is officially over, the commitment and resolve from the citizens of Vancouver continues to grow.
In just 5 short days, Gratitude Week accomplished what it set out to do which was to begin a new “conversation” about homelessness and provide a way for ordinary citizens to become actively engaged in helping to end homelessness now.
Gratitude Week received unprecedented support from all parts of the community. From classes of elementary schoolchildren who traveled to the Vancouver Art Gallery to add their signs to the Gratitude Wall, through seniors who came down to serve as enthusiastic volunteers. And everyone in between.
Vancouver’s film and creative community was very well represented, and helped inspire other industry sectors to get involved.
An active and engaged volunteer Organizing Committee devoted countless hours and their diverse range of talents to establish a benchmark of what can be accomplished when the will is there to do so.
The Wall of Gratitude
This was an art installation on the grounds of The Vancouver Art Gallery created for, and by, the people of Vancouver. Over the course of 5 days, (some that were pouring with rain!) people came down and added their personal and heartfelt messages of gratitude. The Gratitude Wall was so well received that plans are currently being developed to turn it into a traveling exhibit so people in communities all over the Lower Mainland can add their messages.
The Gratitude Gathering
This public forum featured a variety of stakeholders that were on hand to educate the public on the critical work and services they provide to the community on the Downtown Eastside.
Mental Health Awareness Forums
A series of engaging and informative public forums presented by leading practitioners in the field of mental health provided visitors with an opportunity to learn and ask questions about mental health and substance abuse issues and their direct correlation with homelessness.
The University Street Collection
Students from SFU, Douglas College, Capilano College and Vancouver Film School staged an early morning street collection across the Lower Mainland to raise awareness and donations for Gratitude Week.
The Placard Project
Dedicated volunteers came out to greet commuters on their way to work with a smile and a personal message of gratitude to raise awareness about the problems of homelessness. This concept took an unexpected direction when people began taking photos of themselves holding their signs and posting them to Twitter to get the word out even more.
Give a Dollar. Give a Damn.
This call to action was given an interesting twist when a group of well known Vancouver personalities donated their time to make a video for Gratitude Week. Actress Helen Shaver, blues legend Jim Byrnes, anchorman Tony Parsons, Rock 101’s Bro Jake, the X-Files’ William B. Davis, Urban Rush’s Fiona Forbes and a variety of other celebrities challenged every person in Vancouver to give just one dollar to end homelessness.
Yogal For Gratitude
Yoga for the People hosted a Yoga Jam in support of Gratitude Week. Participants attended to express their gratitude through yoga and all proceeds were donated to Gratitude Week.
The Mala Collaboration
This was an online collaboration exploring the question: How do we end homelessness now? Through discussion boards, posts and debates, the Mala Collaboration was, and continues to be, a valuable tool in allowing people to become engaged in finding ways to end homelessness now.
The media, of all types, print, radio and TV, came out in full force to support the novel concept and goal of Gratitude Week. The media supported Gratitude Week in the form of sponsorship (The Vancouver Sun, Global TV, Rock101 and CKNW) as well as by way of articles, radio and TV interviews with our Founder, Ron Josephson, and our executive Director, Lara Holte, and other members of the Organizing Committee. This extensive coverage of Gratitude Week helped spread the word to the citizens of Vancouver that there was a way for them to be involved in the fight to End Homelessness Now.
Statistics indicate that charitable giving across the board is down significantly throughout Canada and North America. Yet despite this fact, the people of Vancouver managed to donate over $175,000 to the cause of ending homelessness. And donations continue to come in from various donors and ongoing projects.
A number of schools throughout the Lower Mainland are still engaged in on-going fundraising activities to help End Homelessness Now. In addition, various sponsors continue to make contributions on a “per transaction” basis for periods of time.
While fund-raising continues to be an integral element of Gratitude Week, and donations continue to come in, Gratitude Week was always about more than the money. It was equally important to foster active public engagement on the issues as a way to create sustainable change and End Homelessness Now.
There’s still work to do
Following the resounding success of this first year, Gratitude Week is already beginning active planning for next year’s Gratitude Week to End Homelessness. This is your opportunity to get involved, volunteer your time and talent, or share your ideas on what YOU think would make next year’s Gratitude Week even better. We invite you to contact Gratitude Week today.